Sebastian helps to find a gene

Happy to be home after a visit to the emergency department at Princess Margaret Hospital, Sebastian Rodriguez-Rios is ready for his favourite game of hide-and-seek.

What the three-year-old is too young to understand is that his stint in hospital could help save millions of children's lives.

Sebastian is taking part in a Telethon Kids Institute world-first research project led by Anthony Bosco that will attempt to block the activity of genes that cause asthma using "repurposed" drugs.

"Recently it's been shown that drugs used to treat one condition may be re-used to treat an unrelated condition," Dr Bosco said.

"This research will find the genes that cause asthma and then we'll search through thousands of drugs to find which drugs hit these (asthma) genes."

Repurposed drugs were already approved for use in patients, making them "much faster and cheaper to get these drugs to patients for different diseases".

Asthma affects 300 million people worldwide, including two million Australians, and is among the most frequent reasons for children's hospital admission.

Dr Bosco said his project, which involves collecting samples from about 50 children taken to PMH's emergency department with a life-threatening asthma attack, would not be possible without funding.

His study is one of 16 Perth-based research projects to benefit from nearly $3 million in grants announced by Health Minister Kim Hames in the second round of the Telethon-Perth Children's Hospital Research Fund, a collaboration between the Channel 7 Telethon Trust and the Department of Health.

Telethon Kids Institute director Jonathan Carapetis welcomed the funding.

"We know that what happens early in your life has a direct bearing on what happens later in your life and that includes things like cancer and heart disease," Professor Carapetis said. "Interventions in the early years are the best bang for your buck for the health dollar - one dollar invested in some early childhood programs yields $17 savings for society over a lifetime.

"These are the innocents of society, they get nasty diseases that can kill them, and that affects the lives of families and they affect the future of this State."

Sebastian's parents Diana Rios and Carlos Rodriguez are pleased to be part of Telethon Kids Institute's two-year study because it will help other families.

"The night we took him to hospital he couldn't breathe properly and, as a parent, it's really scary to take your child to hospital because of something that is out of your control," Mrs Rios said.

Healthy and asthmatic children of all ages can take part in the study. For details email mavric@telethonkids.org.au .

These are the innocents of society, they get nasty diseases." Telethon Kids Institute director *Jonathan Carapetis *

The West Australian

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